tug war

Tug of war

Tug of war, tug o' war, or tug war, also known as rope pulling, is a sport that directly puts two teams against each other in a test of strength.

The term may be used as a metaphor to describe a demonstration of brute strength by two opposing groups, such as a rivalry between two departments of a company. Often, there is a third party who is considered the "rope" in the tug o' war.


The origins of tug of war are not clearly known, though they must be very old indeed. It may have originally have been a ritual or religious contest:

There is no specific time and place in history to define the origin of the game of Tug of War. The contest of pulling on the rope originates from ancient ceremonies and rituals. Evidence is found in countries like Egypt, India, Myanmar, New Guinea... The origin of the game in India has strong archaeological roots going back at least to the 12th Century AD in the area what is today the State of Orissa on the east coast. The famous Sun Temple of Konark has a stone relief on the west wing of the structure clearly showing the game of Tug of War in progress.

The origins of Tug of War are clouded in mystery but it is beyond dispute that this royal sport was practiced in ancient Egypt and China where legend has it the Sun and Moon played Tug of War over the light and darkness...

Tug of War stories about heroic champions from Scandinavia and Germany circulate Western Europe where Viking warriors pull animal skins over open pits of fire in tests of strength and endurance in preparation for battle and plunder.

1500 and 1600 – Tug of War is popularized during tournaments in French chateaux gardens and later in Great Britain...

1800 – Tug of War begins a new tradition among seafaring men who were required to tug on lines to adjust sails while ships were underway and even in battle.

The Oxford English Dictionary says that the phrase 'tug of war' originally meant the decisive contest; the real struggle or tussle; a severe contest for supremacy. Only in the 19th century was it used as a term for an athletic contest between two teams who haul at the opposite ends of a rope.


Two teams of eight, whose total mass must not exceed a maximum weight determined for the class, align themselves at the end of a rope (approximately 10 centimetres in circumference). The rope is marked with a "center line" and two markings four meters either side of the center line. The teams start with the rope's center line directly above a line marked on the ground, and once the contest (the "pull") has commenced, attempt to pull the other team such that the marking on the rope closest to their opponent crosses the centre line, or the opponents commit a foul (such as a team member sitting or falling down).

A contest may feature a moat in a neutral zone, usually of mud or softened ground, which eliminates players who cross the zone or fall into it.

As a sport

There are tug of war clubs in many countries, and both men and women participate.

The sport was part of the Olympic Games from 1900 until 1920, but has not been included since. The sport is contested in the World Games. The Tug of War International Federation TWIF organises World Championships for nation teams biannually, for both indoor and outdoor contests, and a similar competition for club teams. In England the sport is catered for by the Tug of War Association (formed in 1958), and the Tug of War Federation of Great Britain (formed in 1984).

Urban legend

A widely circulated urban legend described a gruesome amputation of the arms of two Chinese tug-of-war contestants. Despite being reported on many websites, the story is unverified by any reliable sources however.


  • The rope used for a tug of war in Uiryeong Keunjulttaenggigi (January 15th in Chinese calendar) is 251 meters long, 4.5 meters in circumference and weighs 54.5 metric tons.
  • The rope used for a tug of war in Naha Oōtsunahiki (October 10th) is 200 meters long and weighs more than 40 metric tons.
  • A special edition of The Superstars called "The Superteams" featured a tug-of-war, usually as the final event.
  • The Battle of the Network Stars featured a tug-of-war as one of its many events.
  • The Peruvian children's series Nubeluz featured its own version of tug-of-war (called "Fuerza Glufica"), where each team battled 3 on 3 over a pool of water in an effort to pull the other team into the pool.
  • A game of tug-of-war, on tilted platforms, was used on the US, UK and Australian Gladiators series although the game was played with two sole opposing participants.
  • In Japan, the tug of war (綱引き) is a staple of school sports festivals.

See also

Tug of war teams


External links

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